In the Nov. 2 election, 59.6 percent of California registered voters participated, the highest number of people in 16 years and five gubernatorial elections, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced last month.
This represents an increase of over three percent compared to the 2006 gubernatorial election. The last election to achieve higher voter turnout was the 1994 election, in which incumbent Governor Pete Wilson defeated State Treasurer Kathleen Brown, with 60.5 percent voting.
“The race for governor and some controversial propositions drew the highest number of people to the polls in five gubernatorial elections,” said Bowen in a press-release. “I applaud the work of each county elections official and the more than 100,000 elections workers and volunteers who helped to make voting as easy as possible for every eligible Californian.”
The biggest jump of the election, however, was the rise in ballots cast by mail – up by almost 7 percent from the last gubernatorial election.
Voting by mail has been increasing ever since the law was changed 32 years ago to allow registered voters to vote by mail in California. The law was expanded again in 2002, giving voters the option of permanent mail voting so that absentee ballots would be sent to them automatically previous to each election.
Like many students, Anna Stolitzka, a junior economics major, voted by mail in the last election.
“The first time I voted it was back at home, so I was registered there and could easily apply to vote by mail while I’m in Davis,” she said. “It’s super easy. You get the ballot in the mail and it comes to you a good deal of time before it’s due so you have time to look over it and do research. It feels like there’s less pressure than in a booth and I can go through the ballot more slowly.”
By coincidence, the numbers for Yolo County revealed the same voter turnout percentage as the state at 59.6 percent. There was a 13 percent decrease, however, when counting all eligible voters instead of just those who are registered.
Just over 50 percent of county voters cast their ballots at a local precinct, as opposed to vote-by-mail.
In a strange twist, Yolo County experienced a decrease in voter turnout from the last gubernatorial election, which had a turnout of 61.3 percent.
Yolo County Clerk Recorder, Freddie Oakley, said the decrease could be explained by the already high level of participation by voters in the county.
“In Yolo county, people are intelligent and know what’s going on in politics,” she said. “It’s just a highly engaged population so we’re already ahead of the curve in terms of interest in governance and participation in elections.”
Davis itself beat the state average with a turnout of 60.4 percent, which was just slightly higher than the surrounding areas of Woodland, Winters and West Sacramento.
MELISSA FREEMAN can be reached at email@example.com.